LITCHI, or LEE-CHEE, the fruit of Nephelium Litchi, a small tree, native of southern China and one of the most important indigenous fruits. It is also cultivated in India. The tree bears large compound leaves with two to four pairs of leathery lanceolate pointed leaflets about 3 in. long, and panicles of small flowers without petals. The fruits are commonly roundish, about ij in. in diameter, with a thin, brittle, red shell which bears rough protuberances. In the fresh state they are filled with a sweet white pulp which envelops a large brown seed, but in the dried condition the pulp forms a blackish fleshy substance. The pulp is of the nature of an aril, that is, an additional seed-coat.
Nephelium Longana, the longan tree, also a native of southern China, is cultivated in that country, in the Malay Peninsula, India and Ceylon for its fruit, which is smaller than that of the litchi, being half an inch to an inch in diameter with a nearly smooth yellowishbrown brittle skin, and containing a pulpy aril resembling that of the litchi in flavour. Another species, N. lappaceum, a tall tree native of the Malay Peninsula, where it is known under the names Rambutan or Rambosteen, is also cultivated for its pleasantly acid pulpy aril. The fruit is oval, bright red in colour, about 2 m. long and covered with long fleshy hairs.
Nephelium belongs to the natural order Sapindaceae, and contains about twenty-two species.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)